Ventana Sur: Series Mania to Open Up Co-Production Forum to Latin America (EXCLUSIVE)

Broadening the Forum’s geographical reach comes about “El Marginal” won the Series Mania 2016 Grand Prix

Laurence Herszberg
Photo by Lea Crespi

BUENOS AIRES — In what will most certainly not be its lonely expansive move this year, Series Mania, the now Lille-based French government-backed TV festival, will open up its industry center-piece, the Co-production Forum, to TV dramas from Latin America.

The move is a sign of the huge evolution in international TV co-production landscape.

”There is a great quality in the TV projects here,” said Series Mania founder Laurence Herszberg “For several years past, we have been receiving projects from Latin America and especially Argentina but always turned them down. We were not sure the European industry would pick up on an Argentine show to co-produce,” Herszberg said.

But now, she added: “The world of co-production is changing so fast and there is such a need for good projects that now is the time to open up to Latin America,” she added.

One 2016 Series Mania festival hit, Sebastian Ortega’s “El Marginal,” has underscored the international reach of Latin American series. A penitentiary thriller, “El Marginal” won 2016’s Series Mania’s top Grand Prix from a David Chase headed jury. Rolling in part of the prize, Dori Media sold “El Marginal” to 89 territories. That demonstrated that “a very local show in Argentina taking place in a prison, a very specific environment, and in Spanish, could appeal to a lot of countries, Herszberg said.

A second reason to open up to Latin American projects is the considerable U.S. industry presence at Series Mania.

For Herszberg, “all the Americans come to the Forum, Netflix comes, as does FX and Fox, and they are all looking for what they call local language projects, meaning local European or Latin American series.”

As once dominant broadcasters in Latin America face plunging TV ad revenues and competition from traditional pay TV and streaming platforms for audiences, they are confronted, along with independent producer partners in the region, with the imperious necessity to raise their game.

This means reaching out to potential production partners in and outside Latin America to make TV series of sufficient production value and scale as to be able to compete with U.S. and top European high-end TV drama. The most obvious way to do this is via international co-production.

Now taking place in Lille, in the northern French region of Hauts-de-France, which is pursuing a go-ahead cultural policy t attract major events to its region, such as Friday week’s first European Animation Awards, the 9th Series Mania unspools April 27 to May 5.